The Perks of Train Travel

posted by Safa Jinje on March 27, 2012

One of the oldest methods of travel is still the greenest, most cost-efficient way to get around Europe. Yes, train travel is not an anachronism to be abandoned like the rotary phones and telegrams of yesteryears. Indeed, the many perks of traveling by rail is one more reason to roam freely around the continent this summer.

Last summer, I spent a lot of my precious youthful energy idling away in airport lounges, waiting hours for connecting flights, and then commuting large distances to get from remote airports to central city locales. And yet, what I remember most dreamily from my arduous travels was the brief moment of bliss spent on the Eurostar, from St. Pancras International in London to Gare du Nord in Paris. What felt like a flicker of an eyelid was actually two hours, traversing the Channel Tunnel and the stunning French countryside.

Train travel tends to exude a feeling of romanticism. Travelers can sit back and relax in a spacious interior, while the beauty of scenic, pastoral, and idyllic views wash past their window. And for music tourists, Europe's sophisticated rail system links the continent like a sprawling web of routes to the summer's most electrifying music festivals.

Trains are often more comfortable than buses and airports, because of the luxury of spacious cars and the freedom from sedentary confinement. But while rail travel isn't always the best alternative to air travel, there are many circumstances where the former can surpass the latter in the quality of experience.

For instance, short haul flights are time consuming when you consider all the peripheral factors such as travel to and from the isolated airports, the long security waits, and the infrequent and inflexible flight options. Train Chartering recently conducted research on the Environmental Impact of train travel in comparison to air travel; in their findings, they discovered that short-haul flights have an immense environmental impact, because the fuel that is necessary for take offs and landings produces extremely high emissions of CO2 per passenger. In fact, trains use up to 70 percent less energy and cause up to 85 percent less air pollution than a jet aircraft.

For long-haul journeys, many would consider flying over rail because of the faster travel time. But if you have time to spare and money to save, overnight trains offer relaxing sleep accommodations. With a rail pass, which offers pass holders tremendous savings, including discounted and free travel on various European ferry crossings, and some methods of ground transportation, travelers only have to pay a supplement for sleeping accommodations, varying from 3 Euros for a reclining seat to 100 Euros for a sleeper cabin.

Still, the flexibility of train travel is probably the most attractive draw for a traveler. With a global train pass, traveling between 23 countries has never been easier. And since many of the European summer festivals are taking place in rural regions, traveling by rail is often the only option. Some festivals have even offered festivalgoers complimentary travel on some train routes. A classic admission ticket to Rock Werchter in Werchter, Belgium is valid for a return trip from all Belgian railway stations to Leuven station, where shuttle bus service will be available to take music tourists to the festival site.

Train travel is a convenient, comfortable, and cheap alternative to air travel. And with all the miles you'll be collecting going abroad this summer, why not go green and ride the rails to your music festival destinations?

Photo: Zach Bonnell